Uppsala Workshop in The Philosophy of Language

The Department of Philosophy at Uppsala University will be hosting a workshop in the philosophy of language on June 12, 2017.

Everyone is welcome. If you have any questions, please contact the organizer.


"Indexicals as Variables" (Andreas Stokke)
The most striking source of context-sensitivity in natural languages are the expressions that are typically called “indexicals.” This category includes (at least) personal pronouns (I, you, she, etc.), demonstratives (that, this, those, etc.), and the familiar temporal and locative indexicals (today, tomorrow, here, there, etc.) This paper argues that all the indexicals should be treated as variables. In particular, I propose that a recent way of implementing the variable approach to personal pronouns be applied to the rest of the indexicals as well. According to this approach, an indexical is a variable associated with a number of presuppositional constraints on assignements. The motivation for this proposal is that it allows for a unified and elegant explanation of a number of patterns of use that all of these expressions have in common. Name, while all these indexicals have uses on which they are referential, only some have uses of on which they are bound. Specifically, the suggestion will be that the possibilites and impossibilites of binding are explained by general facts concerning how presuppositions project in the relevant kinds of environments.

“An Intention-Based Semantics for Imperatives” (Daniel Harris)
I will argue that the semantic values of declarative and imperative clauses are the kinds of mental states that they are used literally to provoke in addressees: declaratives encode beliefs and imperatives encode intentions. By implementing these ideas in a formal-semantic theory, I'll show how to make sense of the ways in which imperatives can combine with declaratives in conjunctions, disjunctions, and conditionals. The resulting theory predicts a range of data about imperative inference, including both the badness of Ross's paradox and the goodness of free-choice inferences. It also shows these inferential data to be an indirect, linguistic manifestation of the coherence norms that govern belief and intention. I will explain the illocutionary variability of imperatives by appealing to a theory of indirect speech acts. The result is a case study in Intention-Based Semantics---the research program, founded by Grice, that seeks to offer comprehensive psychological explanations of semantic phenomena. After laying all of this out, I will also briefly sketch some ways in which parallel considerations could be used to support an expressivist treatment of a wide range of normative language

"Best Coast Semantics" (Eliot Michaelson)
Semantics aims to offer a theory of a certain privileged type of meaning. Exploring what exactly that privilege amounts to—and, indeed, whether there is any such privilege to be had—falls to metasemantics. The present essay constitutes a metasemantic defense of the ‘West Coast’ approach to semantics, on which this privileged type of meaning is to be understood in terms of the central role it plays in our socio-normative economy. In particular, I argue that the sort of meaning central to the semantic project is that which helps to explain normative phenomena like justified inference, knowledge transmission, and certain forms of blameworthiness. The realizer of this explanatory role, I will suggest, is mental states expressed in a particular way—in line with the rules of the language we are speaking.